Conservative MPs are at odds over whether to join a new Eurosceptic group aimed at forcing David Cameron to take a tougher approach to the EU.
A backlash emerged yesterday over a decision to set up an informal organisation called the 81 Group – named after the number of Tories who rebelled against Mr Cameron by backing a referendum on Britain's position in the EU last week. Some of the rebels said they saw no rationale for the group and would not join it. Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford, said the 81 Group looked like "an organised faction against the Prime Minister".
In a letter to Mark Pritchard, secretary of the 1922 Committee and one of those behind the new grouping, Ms Crouch said: "While I think the Government should be doing more to articulate its policy on repatriating powers from Europe, I have no desire to be part of this faction. Last week should not be seen as the start of some Tory Spring – I voted for a referendum not revolution!"
Mr Pritchard told Ms Crouch that the 81 Group would not be a formal group or faction but recognised that, on other major European votes, some of the MPs who rebelled last week may vote on similar lines in the future.
James Morris, another Tory MP who backed a referendum last week, warned Mr Cameron that his project to modernise the party had been damaged by his imposition of a three-line whip in the vote.
He said: "The way the vote was handled reinforced the perception that the party and the Government have become detached from public opinion."
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